AMERICA IN TRANSITION, JULY 2009
by Jessica Murray
Summer began with a sky full of action.
Whatever the planets are up to at the Equinoxes and Solstices sets the tone for the season to come, so let us look at what the transits had to say.
The New Moon in late June arrived a day and a half after the Sun’s ingress into Cancer, and when it did, both Lights opposed Pluto. This happened during a conjunction of Venus and Mars—that’s always hot—in Taurus. And not just any old degree of Taurus, either. They came together right in the middle of the sign, the earthiest statement of the earthiest sign of the zodiac. This is a teaching about pure sensuality.
The word “sensual” is often used as a euphemism for “sexy” by people who seem to think that saying “sexual” is naughty; so we’ll need to define our terms astrologically.
There are several that vie for the Sexiest Sign crown. Scorpio claims rulership over procreation and the mysteries that lead up to it, but it’s not the physical act that matters to Scorpio; the body is just a vehicle. For fixed water the action is in the psychological and energetic drama of sex. Leo, too, is associated with interpersonal heat; but neither is it about bodies, as Earth is, nor is it about merging, as Scorpio is. Leo craves the fun of it all: the performance of rituals like dating and courting. Then there’s Libra, another relationship-oriented sign; the most purely romantic sign. Libra is air, which means interested in ideas or ideals—in this case, the ideal of union. If sex comes with the partnership, that’s part of the package; but what Libra is really after is the idea of love.
It is to Taurean experience that the word sensual most closely applies. The beauty and pleasure (Venus is Taurus’ ruling planet) of having a physical body in a physical world is what motivates sex for Taurus. High-level embodiments of this sign revere the sacred in all physical experience; and the closer to Nature they can get, the better. If roses and tigers and oak trees are holy, how could the genitalia not be holy too (to paraphrase Allen Ginsburg , who had Venus in Taurus)?
In the pagan Wheel of the Year, the festival associated with Taurus in full blossom takes place when the Sun is at the middle degree of Taurus: Beltane, or May Day. For countless millennia, until the sky-god religions came along and declared sex scary and bad, May Day was all about apple-cheeked lovers cavorting in the sweet green grass.
These days we might cavort in a hotel in Buenos Aires instead, especially if we’re an American politician whose career depends upon containing his urges within the confines of a Christian marriage.
Mark Sanford is a product of his place and time: U.S. society, which is deeply neurotic about sex. Obsessing over it and despising it at the same time, awash in pornography yet riddled with a Victorian squeamishness, the USA is deeply clueless about this Goddess-given blessing. Americans who arrive at a healthy approach to sexuality do so in spite of their cultural conditioning, not with any help from it.
This anti-sex climate seems to be a particular challenge recently for those who identify with what have been called “family values.” If we leave aside the question of political hypocrisy and just consider the issue from the point of view of psycho-sexual health, men like Mark Foley, Larry Craig, John Ensign and Mark Sanford are representative of a collective second-chakra crisis.
The skies above indicate that it is time for us to flush these conflicts out of hiding.
Also involved in the Solstice transits was the asteroid Vesta, which was conjunct the New Moon. This is the feminine archetype that understands sex as a sacrament: a conscious channeling of Divine Feminine. This is sex that is not used to get a mate, nor to get children, nor to achieve personal pleasure; but to practice a religious devotion. From the standpoint of conventional American mores, it is an impulse that makes no sense and has no place. Because of the extreme suspicion, not to mention legal prosecution, that Vestal urges elicit in patriarchal cultures, it follows that of all the planets and asteroids, Vesta's expression is especially prone to distortions.
The pre-classical sacred harlots, whose practices form the template for healthy Vestal functioning, integrated relationship separations, quite naturally, into their sexual unions. They didn’t have to fly off to Argentina in clandestine meetings; they didn’t have to promise to stay with their consorts on a 24-7 basis by means of marital guarantees that went against their instincts.
But the Vestal model is unavailable to most Americans. Unless your spirituality runs towards the Wiccan—which I think we can safely rule out in the case of the governor of South Carolina—you are not going to have an ideological framework through which to express this energy. And if you don't find a personal framework either, the Vestal urges manifest in their shadow guise.
Vesta's shadow shows up as sexual repressiveness, fear, and reactive overcompensation. That which is denied tends to pop up in very inconvenient ways; as exemplified by lawmakers who rail against pederasty in chambers while emailing lascivious messages to young interns on their off time; and by upstanding Southern governors who flee without a word into the arms of an Argentinian mistress because they can’t stand for one more moment the strain of the pretense that is their sex life.
Mark Sanford and family
Withdrawing from sex altogether is a symptom of denied Vesta, and so is superficial promiscuity. A fully conscious Vesta may seek multiple partners, but never in a casual way. For Vesta, sex that is merely ordinary is a blasphemy. Mark Sanford’s chart features Vesta opposed to Pluto. Like the transit of Pluto opposition to the New Moon that affects us all, this aspect is a cry in the darkness.
Out of the Closet
The crisis represented by the Republican sex scandals is emblematic of the distorted cultural stories with which we all have to contend. The placements of Vesta, Venus and Mars at the Solstice New Moon tell us that finding creative outlets for sexual energy is our homework for this summer. We and Mr Sanford are being invited to identify any shames that might be lurking down there in a closeted part of ourselves, and transform them through acceptance and appreciation.
An excellent meditation for this summer would be one that refers back to our cellular memory of the days when humans knew we were animals; a primordial time when we hadn’t yet separated ourselves, conceptually or operationally, from the other sentient creatures that populate our planet. What a comfort it can be, to remember that we once felt ourselves to be part of the same family, made of the same stuff, and accountable to the universal forces that fashioned us.
Jessica Murray trained as a fine artist before graduating in 1973 from Brown University, where she studied psychology and linguistics. After a stint in political theatre in the heady early '70s, Jessica moved to San Francisco and began studying metaphysics, where she has had a full-time private practice in astrology for more than 30 years.
Her book, Soul-Sick Nation: An Astrologer's View of America, is available through her website, mothersky.com. Jessica writes a blog, a column in Daykeeper Journal and the monthly Skywatch on her website, MotherSky.com, Jessica's essays appear in The Mountain Astrologer, Astrodispath, P.S. Magazine, and other publications.Recent video and audio interviews with Jessica that address world events can be found in her podcast library. Jessica can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You'll find a complete list of Jessica's articles for Daykeeper here.